Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth: Unpacking Potential Side Effects

on Jun 04, 2023| Modified on Jun 20, 2024
Diatomaceous Earth

As the popularity of food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) as a natural supplement rises, it's vital to delve into the potential side effects of this multi-faceted compound. Known for its detoxifying properties, DE could usher in several health benefits. However, embracing DE as part of your health regimen calls for a thorough understanding of its potential side effects.

Digestive Discomfort

One of the first potential side effects of consuming diatomaceous earth involves the digestive system. Users might experience discomfort, including symptoms like bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and constipation. While usually mild and temporary, such side effects could affect your comfort levels and overall experience with DE.

Risks of Dehydration

Diatomaceous earth's absorbent nature might contribute to dehydration. Its ability to absorb water can trigger symptoms like dry mouth or an increased sense of thirst among its users. Therefore, while consuming DE, it's crucial to maintain optimal hydration levels to counter this side effect.

Nutrient Depletion Concerns

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is noted for its detoxification properties, facilitated by its ability to bind with toxins in the body. However, there's a concern that DE might also bind with essential nutrients, potentially causing nutrient depletion. This unintended interaction could disrupt nutrient absorption, leading to nutritional deficiencies.

Potential Allergic Reactions

Though rare, allergic reactions to diatomaceous earth are possible. These reactions might present as skin rashes, itching, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, or throat. It's recommended to stop using DE and seek immediate medical help if you encounter such symptoms.

Respiratory Issues

Even though food-grade DE presents less respiratory risk compared to other forms, its fine particles might still irritate the respiratory system when inhaled. This risk is particularly significant for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma.

Detoxification Symptoms

The detoxifying properties of diatomaceous earth can lead to a variety of symptoms. As DE moves through the digestive tract, binding with toxins and other harmful substances, the body may undergo what's often termed a "healing crisis" or "Herxheimer reaction". This detoxification process may induce temporary symptoms, which could include:

Digestive Discomfort

 As the body adjusts to DE detoxification, one might experience bloating, constipation, or stomach cramps.


During the initial stages of DE detoxification, some users have reported feelings of fatigue or lethargy.


As DE aids the body in eliminating toxins, it may cause an increase in mucus production, potentially leading to coughing, especially if mucus is expelled via the respiratory tract.

Flu-like Symptoms

Detoxing with DE may trigger flu-like symptoms, including headaches, joint and muscle pain, and fever.

Skin Breakouts

Temporary skin breakouts, including acne or rashes, might occur as toxins are expelled through the skin during DE detoxification.

To conclude, while food-grade diatomaceous earth offers multiple potential benefits, it's essential to approach its use with awareness of its possible side effects.

Continue reading below to learn about the side effects our readers experienced, often a week or two after consuming daily doses of DE.


14 User Reviews

3 star (1) 

Posted by i promise i%u2019m not an idiot (kelso washington ) on 06/18/2024

I miss read the dosage on diatomaceous earth and ended up taking 2 tablespoons… Oops… Are there any effects I should be worried about? I don't feel sick but I did read that taking too much can be very bad for you and can cause flu like symptoms and etc.

Replied by Art
2182 posts

When I tested higher dose food grade diatomaceous earth (FGDE), the obvious side effect I had was constipation. Once I realized it was causing constipation, I lowered the dose significantly and the constipation went away.


Replied by Cindy
(Illinois, USA)
480 posts

I would imagine that the 1/8 tsp didn't do much after the 2 TBS. Nothing to worry about. Just let it flush itself out. So to speak. When things get back to normal, start over.

Why did you take it in the first place?

Replied by Katzie
(Cancun, Mexico)

I personally take 1 TBSP of D.E. every day (for parasites), and have experienced zero issues! Some days I've taken 2 TBSP and no issues then either. So do not worry!

Side Effects
Posted by Elizabeth (PA) on 08/30/2023

I just started taking DE . I began with a 2 tsp was way too much, caused watery diarrhea. I dropped to 1/8 tsp and still same result. Will this eventually stop? I had to stop taking it because not conducive with work lol. Maybe take less than 1/8 tsp? Or is there an alternative not so strong?

Replied by Art
2182 posts


If just 1/8th teaspoon of diatomaceous earth (DE) gives you diarrhea, it doesn't sound like it will be a viable option for you.

You didn't say the reason why you are taking it, but if you do, then the EC community can possibly be able to offer other options for you.


Replied by Hollyhock

I hope you bought "food grade DE" the other stuff is used in pool filters.

Replied by Katzie
(Cancun, Mexico)

Elizabeth - I take a whole Tablespoon of D.E. every day, as I believe many diseases, cancers, etc. are caused by them. Most people think that parasites only affect people in tropical countries, which is not true. We probably all have some. And when I take D.E. it stops diarrhea. I think something else is going on as 1/8tsp is not very much D.E. at all. Bless you. The D.E. community will likely offer some good advice.

Side Effects
Posted by Diane (US) on 08/08/2023

Diatomaceous Earth - Felt very nauseous immediately after drinking

I used 1 tsp. in 1 cup of water with lemon. I had a hard time getting it down. I tried to drink a second glass of water and could only drink half of it. I felt like throwing up immediately after drinking it. I cannot believe a die-off reaction would happen that quickly. What else would cause it?

Side Effects
Posted by Vanessa (London, UK) on 02/13/2023

I have been taking a teaspoon of DE in the morning for nearly two months. It causes severe constipation. The only way to relieve it is when I stop taking it. I'm drinking lots of water but it makes no difference. Also, haven't seen any improvement in my nails?

Side Effects
Posted by Dawn (IN) on 03/07/2022

Every time I start using Diatomaceous earth in my morning water, my sinuses act like I've got allergies, I get stopped up and so nasally, I've read its part of the detox process How long does it last? It's so annoying having to keep blowing my nose. Am I allergic? I really want to grow my hair thicker its been shedding since I had covid, I did not get the vax either. This is so frustrating.

Side Effects
Posted by Juliana (Edmonton ) on 01/02/2022


I started to use about a month + ago Diatomaceous earth powder from the health food store. I noticed immediate help with my sleep and less running to the bathroom at night. However, it gave me 9 out of 10 pain in my both hands as they became very swollen. I couldn't hold the tooth brush or comb my hair. I was devastated. Yesterday I started to take the antibiotics for chronic bronchitis and today the inflammation of the hands stopped.I am not sure why Bronchities antibiotic would help with inflammation of my fingers

.I started DE with 1/4 tea spoon first 2 weeks, then increased to a half teaspoon and then 1 teaspoon.

Now I am back to 1/4 in the morning and the evening. I saw on this website some people had pain in their hands like me..I have been struggling with osteoarthritis which never bothered me badly before. Thank you.

Replied by Mark
(South Carolina)

I have been taking it off and on for a month or so. 10 days on and 10 days off. Yesterday I took 1 tsp and about 4 hours later my foot (big toe area) became swollen, red and I had a lot of pain. I was driving a tractor for the afternoon and probably didn't drink enough water, but the pain was pretty bad and I had difficulty walking. Slightly better in the morning. Could it be a bone spur developed or could the DE have contributed to an outburst of gout? I've never had gout that I know of.

Side Effects
Posted by Jeani (Lubbock, Tx) on 08/06/2018

Diatomaceous earth-I started taking 3 days ago to lower cholesterol. The first day I took 1 tablespoon. Felt terrible; headache, dizzy, ears stopped up etc. The Second day took 1/2 teaspoon twice. Felt bad again.

Today I've taken 1/2 teaspoon and won't take anymore. Still feel dizzy, ears feel stopped up etc. And I seem to be getting ear wax coming out of my ears! Is this normal? Can anyone help me, please?

Replied by Janet


I suspect you are pushing out toxins. I did. DE groups on FB discuss this often.

Bone pain joint pain, excess toxins, from environment and from medications.

I tried many things during the time I used it. To ease the problems I tried, clay, Ted's alkalinity drinks, lecithin and cilantro.

Not much helped. My face and neck was a large red lump. Think makeup or perfume area. Over a lifetime I can only imagine how toxic those things were.

It took 2 months plus for it to settle down.

If you do this to lower cholesterol, keep in mind your brain needs it to function. We were successful at doing it by using Ted's alkalinity drink. Lecithin and cilantro, 2x a week.

You can literally see your toxic load leave and feel it. It depends on how you want to go about it. If your joints are especially painful, there is excess calcium and possibly mycoplasma pushing out. Being displaced by the silica.

Horsetail herb is another choice to get silica. Not as dramatic as DE.


Side Effects
Posted by Pam (Mesa, Az) on 10/29/2017

After drinking diatemaceous earth for the first time I immediately have a metallic taste in my this from the DE?

Side Effects
Posted by Cassie (Fl) on 08/25/2017

Diatomaceous earth definitely did not go well with me.

I'm currently having a really bad reaction to it...I can hardly breathe....then again the reason I'm using it instead of harsh chemicals is because I have auto immune disease and MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity)....I don't know what to use anymore... anyway I've read great things about this stuff like it can be used to detox yourself...the I read something about the cancer society considering it a caricogenic that can cause lung cancer if used too long or if your body respiratory system is already weak.....

Replied by Janet


Here is Ted's remedy for detoxifying to rid yourself of chemical sensitivity. I have it myself, mine is from mold and Ted addresses that in a separate email in this same chapter. It diminishes with time as you get more and more well.

My daughter has it also, from her digestion issues, for her exposures were solved with these supplements, we have used this group of supps for any crazy reactions to things and they diminish the crazy pretty quick.

  • 500mg Bromelain
  • 500 to 600mg NAC N acetyl Cystine
  • 500mg Quercetin

My lung function has improved over time using hydrogen peroxide inhalation method, ln Search box on E.C. Bill Munro inhalation therapy.

Replied by Dee

If you are using a powder, you have to take care that you don't shake it up and inhale any of it because it will cause issues with breathing and possibly the lungs. We are meant to inhale oxygen and not foreign particles floating through the air and this is no different. When you are trying to use DE, you must be careful how you handle it and don't shake up the container of dry powder before you open it because if you do the powder is usually so very fine it would be easily inhaled into the lungs. I hope this helps. I take it and I was diagnosed with MS.

Replied by Suzy
(Nova Scotia)

I also am super sensitive to chemicals and thinks it's auto immune. Can you tell me how to get diagnosed?

Side Effects
Posted by Tassi (Berkeley, Ca) on 01/24/2017

I have been buying and using diatomaceous earth since about 1990, with great results for getting rid of fleas, mites, etc. I also have tried taking it internally over the years, with no results I could discern, so I never kept it up longer than a few weeks at a time. I gave it another try recently that turned out not so great -- perhaps being considerably older now has something to do with it, body is more fragile in general than it used to be, and my intestines are not in great shape. I took it (food grade of course) because I was having severe diarrhea (which I eventually figured out was caused by taking Concentrace trace minerals) -- and the DE did help with that issue.

I was happy and planned to keep taking it indefinitely, just on general principles and its good reputation (plus having just bought a giant bagfull). I think I took it, working up to 1 T twice a day, for about 3+ weeks, but then I started having twinges of pain in the intestinal area, on the lower right side, then on the left side as well. This was scary. I happened to have this book from the library (see excerpt quoted below), and based on its advice I quit taking the DE plus started a regimen of vigorous daily exercise to "shake loose the guts" (10-20 squats and full prostrations) and that seems to have worked, there are no more pains after several weeks now.

below is excerpted from book: Medical Medium, by Anthony William, p. 251 re Diatomaceous Earth:

it doesn't do a single useful thing for your gut. it can actually be quite dangerous for your health, if you're sensitive and have a health condition.

Diatomite clings tenaciously to the sides of your intestinal tract and colon, and severely interferes with their ability to absorb nutrients from yr food.... damages yr hydrochloric acid and kills good bacteria..... followed by long-lasting gastric spasms and pain.

It can take months to shake loose from your intestinal tract.

Replied by Art
2182 posts

In reply to Tassi (Berkeley, Ca),

I take DE to control my cholesterol and while I do not take it everyday anymore, I haven't had a problem with taking it over the years.....gastrointestinal or otherwise other that it could have a tendency to constipate me at high dose, low water intake and low magnesium intake, but given the nature of DE, that could be expected. According to the following study, it may not take as high of a dose as some people take in order to have positive effects in humans. As you can see they got good benefit with just 750 mg per day where as many people talk about taking multiple grams per day in the 10 to 20 gram range or more.

In the book that you refer to, do they give links to studies that confirm what they are saying about DE having no benefit for the gut? I'm curious because if it is bad for me I would like to know that for sure, but I have never seen studies on FGDE that have said as much. If they do list studies, could you provide the links to them? Thank you.


Eur J Med Res. 1998 Apr 8;3(4):211-5.

Diatomaceous earth lowers blood cholesterol concentrations.

Wachter H1, Lechleitner M, Artner-Dworzak E, Hausen A, Jarosch E, Widner B, Patsch J, Pfeiffer K, Fuchs D.


In this study a potential influence of diatomaceus earth to lower blood cholesterol was investigated. During 12 weeks we monitored serum lipid concentrations in 19 healthy individuals with a history of moderate hypercholesterinemia (9 females, 10 males, aged 35 - 67 years). Individuals administered orally 250 mg diatomaceous earth three-times daily during an 8 weeks observation period. Serum concentrations of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides levels were measured before study entry, every second week during the period of diatomaceous earth intake and 4 weeks after stop of intake. Compared to baseline (285.8 +/- 37.5 mg/dl = 7.40 +/- 0.97 mM) diatomaceous earth intake was associated with a significant reduction of serum cholesterol at any time point, reaching a minimum on week 6 (248.1 mg/dl = 6.43 mM, -13.2% from baseline; p<0.001). Also low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (week 4: p<0.05) and triglycerides levels decreased (week 2: p<0.05, week 4: p<0.01). Four weeks after intake of diatomaceous earth was stopped, serum cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides still remained low and also the increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol became significant (p<0.05). Diatomaceous earth, a bioproduct, is capable of reducing blood cholesterol and positively influencing lipid metabolism in humans. Placebo-controlled studies will be necessary to confirm our findings.



Replied by Susan

I was just diagnosed with having a tapeworm so part of the protocol was to take diatomaceous earth. I have been taking it for about a week and I'm not sure if this is the problem but it is causing diarrhea. Part of my digestive issues is Lou spells anyway, so I don't know if this is part of the digestive issues or part of taking diatomaceous earth but normally I don't have it every day and I'm having it every day.

Side Effects
Posted by Mijas (Ireland) on 04/23/2016


Just wondering if anyone has used Diatamaceous Earth for months or years? Have you had any adverse reactions? I'm reading some good reports, many have die-off reactions, but I wonder if it is actually safe to take long-term?

I've been taking it for a couple of months, I did notice some die-off, but I have recently been thinking that it may be affecting my mood. I get bad dreams if I take it at night, so I am taking 1 tbsp in water in the morning. I drink tons of water with it and it has definitely helped with constipation. I get to sleep faster but then I wake up with an unusually low mood. I also feel very tired early in the evening, which was previously my 'high energy' phase.

Replied by Timh
2063 posts

M: First thing come to mind is "silicosis" or way too high levels of Silica as Diatomaceous Earth is predominately Silica.

If you are using D.E. for the removal of intestinal parasites you will need to greatly reduce it and introduce other natural remedies for this condition.


Silicosis is "lung fibrosis caused by the inhalation of dust containing silica, " not "way too high levels of silica."

WHO study on toxic levels of silica (silicon dioxide) estimate "The probable lethal dose of silica (oral) for man is over 15 g/kg bw.". So for a 150lb person (68kg), one would have to ingest over a kilogram of silica, and even that is theoretical.

Side Effects
Posted by Kelly (Nashville, Tn) on 03/24/2016

I have been using the food grade DE for about 2 1/2 weeks. I noticed the complete opposite from what I keep reading everyone else's experienses. My nails are more brittle, no difference in hair and I am breaking out. (Which I am not prone to). I know everyone's body is different but I am not sure why I have not gotten any positive results yet. Has anyone else gotten negative or no results?

Side Effects
Posted by Seven6 (United Kingdom) on 10/21/2014

Hello , I started to use diatomaceous earth now for 5 days and I'm already noticing headache, pain in the eyes and dry cough. I am sure that diatomaceous earth caused it , I have to inform that I'm useing only freshwater food grade level spoon per day, and I never inhaled it, but these symphtoms really scared me, has any one experieced any thing like it ? and if so what could caused it ? and why ?

Replied by Mmsg
(Somewhere, Europe)

Seven6, maybe you are taking too much for your body. Start VERY small.

Side Effects
Posted by Autumn (Louisville, Ky) on 06/13/2014

I am on my 9th day of taking Food Grade DE. I worked up from 1 tsp daily to now, 1 Tbs daily. At first I was constipated but now that, that has passed, I am running to the bathroom all day (since last night) and my stomach is making some VERY loud noises, which is not normal for me. I am just wondering if this could be caused from the 'die off' somehow. I have slowed down going to the bathroom tonight but the noises that my stomach is making are constant. Is this normal? It's not scary or anything just weird. Thanks for any help!!

Replied by Ashley
(Florida, US)

My reply is probably too late, but you started off with way too much DE way too early.

You should've started at 1/4 tsp for a week, then worked your way up to 1/2 tsp for two weeks. After those two weeks, you can take 1 tsp daily. Try that for two weeks before going to 2 tsp daily.

Side Effects
Posted by Cat (Tauranga, New Zealand) on 09/30/2012

Has anyone else noticed their bowel motions change to the point of not wanting to go for a few days at a time upon first taking DE? Along with this no bowel motion comes of course, a bloated stomach which is very uncomfortable. I still eat good food and naturally drink lots of water because of the DE but does this stuff clog up your system as well as benefit you in other ways? I'm sure it'll come right but how do I kick start myself again? Anyway, I have noticed my notoriously weak fingernails take off in the last few days but then again, we're into spring now and heading for summer so it may just be the winter respite is over and like all things, they are blooming again! *Food grade DE of course*

Replied by Mel
(Salmon Arm, B.C. Canada)

I would recommend taking milk kefir to keep the bowels moving in a normal fashion and keep your stomach from bloating. This will make the experience of taking DE more enjoyable.